Chris Lange, FISM News
Russia continued its stepped-up bombardment of Ukrainian cities from the east to the west Thursday, unleashing a barrage of 36 cruise and other missiles within a two-hour period, according to reports out of Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities said that a 79-year-old woman was killed and at least seven other people were injured in one of the strikes, Reuters reported. Maksym Kozitskyi, a regional governor in western Ukraine, said that a missile strike caused a fire at a “critical” infrastructure facility in the province of Lviv.
Ukraine’s military chief, Valery Zaluzhnyy, reported on the Telegram messaging app that Ukrainian air defense batteries shot down 16 of the missiles, which several media outlets noted is a lower success rate than usual.
Meanwhile, Russia intensified ground attacks in southern and eastern Ukraine, including along the outskirts of Bakhmut, where Moscow’s forces have made hard-won, albeit small, territorial gains in recent days.
RUSSIA USES AIR BALLOONS IN NEW STRATEGY
Chief Ukrainian presidential advisor Andriy Yermak said that Moscow has recently incorporated the use of air balloons for reconnaissance in what appears to be a new strategy.
“The Russians have changed their tactics somewhat. They conduct active reconnaissance, use false targets,” Yermak wrote on Telegram.
The Hill reported that Ukraine’s military administration spotted six Russian balloons over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Wednesday, some of which were shot down by the city’s air defenses, though the military did not provide a precise number.
“According to information that is now being clarified, these were balloons that move in the air under the propulsion of wind,” the administration said, suggesting that Russia aims to “detect and exhaust our air defenses.”
Ukraine’s air force spokesperson, Yuriy Ihnat, said Russia may be using these balloons in an effort to preserve its dwindling stocks of reconnaissance drones.
The report came on the same day that Moldova temporarily closed down its airspace after reportedly spotting a Russian aerial object “resembling a meteorological balloon” in its skies.
The speaker of Moldova’s parliament, Igor Grosu, told reporters that the object had crossed into northern Moldova from Ukraine. FISM reported on Wednesday that Moldova’s president had accused Russia of plotting to overthrow Moldova’s government.
ISRAEL’S FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS KYIV AMID PRESSURE FOR AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen arrived in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv Thursday where he is expected to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, and President Zelenskyy. The Times of Israel reported that Cohen is the highest-ranking Israeli official to visit Ukraine since the war began.
Cohen visited the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where more than 450 Ukrainian civilians were slaughtered by Russian soldiers last year, and Babyn Yar, the site where more than 30,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis in September 1941.
Cohen will also attend a ceremony to officially reopen Israel’s embassy in Kyiv and later meet with members of the city’s Jewish community.
The Israeli government has been anxious to preserve its strategic relationship with Russia and has so far resisted pressure from Kyiv to levy economic sanctions on Jewish-Russian oligarchs and supply Ukraine’s military with air defense systems, though it has provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid.
FISM reported in October that Former Russian President and Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev warned that a decision by Israel to provide military aid to Ukraine would be “a very reckless move.”